Archive for Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Session nears end with third coal bill

May 7, 2008


Senators approve bill allowing two coal-fired power plants

The measure links those plants to other projects, including a proposed transportation hub in Johnson County. Enlarge video

Senate passes voter ID bill

Topeka - Kansans must have photo identification to vote starting in 2010 under a compromise bill sent Tuesday to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

The bill passed the Senate 27-3, followed by a 67-56 vote in the House.

The bill, worked out by House and Senate negotiators, requires all voters except those in the military and other citizens overseas, disabled or age 65 or older to show an ID with a photo and signature each time they vote. It calls for the state to provide free photo IDs to low-income people.

The proposal got renewed life because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month that an Indiana voter ID law was constitutional, said Sen. Tim Huelskamp, who pushed the bill in his chamber.

— Call it Coal 3.

For the third time in the 2008 legislative session, lawmakers on Tuesday approved a bill that would authorize the construction of two 700-megawatt coal-fired power plants and strip the state of authority to block similar projects.

The Senate passed the measure 24-10, while the House will probably approve it today.

If that happens, that would likely set up another veto by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who has already rejected two bills authorizing the proposed plants in southwest Kansas, citing concerns about the environmental effects of the project's carbon dioxide emissions.

Another Sebelius veto would then mean another override attempt could be teed up for May 29, the official last day of the session.

Hays-based Sunflower Electric Power Corp. and its two out-of-state partners have been unable to get the two-thirds majorities needed in the House to override Sebelius' vetoes.

Loaded bill

On Coal 3, however, plant backers married the project to several other economic development initiatives in one piece of legislation in hopes of gaining more support. Included in House Bill 2412 are a measure where the state would back $41 million in bonds for the intermodal freight hub - a giant shipping and distribution center near Gardner - and several other business tax cuts and incentives.

But that bundling strategy was blasted by Sebelius and several senators.

State Sen. John Vratil, R-Leawood, has supported the coal-burning plants throughout the session, but said the new bill violated the Kansas Constitution prohibition against having more than one subject matter in a single bill.

"I cannot vote for a bill that I believe violates the constitution," Vratil said.

But Sen. Nick Jordan, R-Shawnee, said all the provisions are appropriately placed in one bill because they were "extremely important economic development issues."

Vratil shot back that under that definition, just about anything the Legislature worked on could be called economic development and placed in the bill.

Several Democrats filed an official protest over the legislation.

"This clearly contains multiple unrelated subjects and therefore is unconstitutional," said Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka.

State Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, voted against the bill, and state Sen. Roger Pine, R-Lawrence, voted for it.

In a statement, Sebelius said "serious questions have been raised about the constitutionality of this bill." She said she supported the provisions of the legislation unrelated to the coal plants.

"It is unfortunate that the Legislature refused to send the other important issues separately to me so that I could sign them into law in 2008," she said.

Budget impasse clearing

Movement on the coal bill, however, indicated that the Legislature was marching toward the end of the wrap-up session.

Late Tuesday night, legislative leaders were saying that an impasse over the final state budget bill was clearing and that the wrap-up session could end today.

One item in the final budget would help finance expansion of the Kansas University School of Pharmacy. A late-night deal would provide the school with $20 million in bonds for the fiscal year that starts July 1, and then $15 million from expected gambling revenue in each of the next two fiscal years.

Earlier Tuesday, scores of Kansans with disabilities and their advocates protested outside the House and Senate chambers, urging lawmakers to complete the final state budget.

Shouting "Kansas is waiting, shame on you," the group wanted legislators to approve funding for key human service programs.

"Without those funds, people are going to lose services," said Stuart Jones, an assistive technology specialist and education consultant with Independence Inc. of Lawrence.

Contained in the final budget is $6.1 million for home- and community-based services for the elderly and developmentally disabled. Advocates also are hoping for $375,000 for an assistive technology program to restore a loss in federal funds.

"I hope they give us our funding so that we don't have waiting lists, or people dying while on waiting lists," said Linda Spunaugle, a coordinator with the Southeast Kansas Independent Living resource center.

Spunaugle and others shouted slogans outside the House and Senate chambers while police and legislative doormen stood between the crowd and the legislative chambers.


jafs 10 years ago

Yes, I get the message.Our elected officials are consistently on the side of moneyed interests.Interestingly, of course, the democrats are voting against these bills, and the republicans are voting for them.Also, as long as we have veto power in the hands of governers and presidents, a simple majority is not enough to ensure passage of legislation. One reason the Democratic majority in Congress has not been able to do as much as it wished.

dirkleisure 10 years ago

Yes, it has gone from 32 votes to 24 votes in the Senate. Can't wait to see what it falls to in the House, where the high water mark is 83 votes.Who is getting the message?

SettingTheRecordStraight 10 years ago

Are Kansans getting the message? The vast majority of House and Senate members - individuals the people elected to represent their interests - have consistently voted in favor of the Holcomb plants.

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